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Joining the dots with sensor integration devices

30 June 2020

There was a time when sensors were simple switches, and their manufacturers just hardware suppliers. All that has changed. Sensors are the ‘eyes and ears’ that collect data on the front line of production and logistics operations. Equipped with ever-smaller microprocessors, they have become intelligent.

With their own decentralised computing power right on board, sensors may no longer need to rely completely on a higher-level or central control system to process and make sense of all the data they produce. They can also provide additional data to the control system via IO-Link. Some even process applications, or ‘Smart Tasks’ by themselves. Soon, some will combine multiple functions in a single device, for example, detecting piston position, vibration and angular velocity for end-of-arm tooling. 

Integration of hardware takes place at a local level within the systems and control architecture, but the data generated can be shared not just at the machine level, but also via cloud-based systems. First, that data can be monitored and trended on a PC, machine HMI or cloud-based dashboard. It also has the potential to be used in ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and MES (Manufacturing Execution System) software; indeed, this is seen as fundamental to the future of Industry 4.0 manufacturing and logistics. 

Digitisation, intelligence and networking will increase until, eventually, systems will control and optimise themselves – all using the data from sensors. Data transparency enables trends to be monitored and gives us the ability to understand more about a system. From Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) to Deep Learning, it is the integration of the data that allows a user to become more aware of what is happening within a system.

Read the full article in the July issue of DPA.

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